MacBook updated

The single ported MacBook has been granted a small refresh with more powerful and more efficient Skylake Intel Core M processors. These are paired with a slightly larger battery at 41.4Wh up from 39.7Wh which should increase usage time a little. RAM speed has also been increased to 1800Mhz, up from 1600Mhz.

Second generation products are often better in ways not seen on a specification sheet, improving the internals based on a year’s worth of technical support queries. The most notable example of this is the change in metal alloy seen on the iPhone 6S compared with the 6, which made the new device much less likely to bend. If you’re in the market for a portable notebook then the update could be enough to tip the balance in the MacBook’s favour.

I do admire Apple’s approach to minimalism. They were famously the first major manufacturer to remove the floppy drive from their flagship device, heralding in a new era of USB mass storage. However, I still feel the one port approach is too ambitious. As soon as a user needs to charge the device then there are zero ports available. Of course there are adapters – but who wants to use those? I would have liked to see an extra port added to the device – but for that we’ll need to wait until next year.

Apple event expected on 21st March

On 21st March Apple is expected to host an event to unveil a new iPhone ‘5SE’ in a long-awaited update for its elderly 5C budget phone. The new phone is expected to feature similar hardware to the iPhone 6S in a 4″ body, including an A9 processor, a motion coprocessor and support for Live Photos. Indeed the only feature that may be missing is 3D Touch, which arguably has failed to catch users’ imagination anyway. It could be quite a tempting offer.

At the event Apple is also expected to include some updates to its iPad line. The current 12.9″ iPad Pro could be offered in a new 9.7″ version, similar to the way Apple offers both the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro.

It’s possible that Apple might update the Watch in some way, although it’s unlikely to amount to anything more than new watch straps.

For many the highlight will be the timing announcement of iOS 9.3 which is almost certainly going to be released shortly after the event.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus announced

Once upon a time, Apple used to announce one iPhone at a time. Since last year’s iPhone 5S and 5C launch, we’re now getting used to two. Today the latest generation of iPhones were revealed to the public, with an all-new design that’s bound to divide opinion.

The front and back of iPhone 6The standout feature compared with the iPhone 5 and 5S is the increased size. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7″ display with a resolution of 1334 x 750px, marketed as ‘Retina HD’. The iPhone 6 Plus has a huge 5.5″ 1920 x 1080px display. They are both LED-backlit IPS LCDs which should improve image quality in addition to increasing resolution.

The battery of the iPhone 6 has been increased to a huge 1810 mAh which is necessary to drive those extra pixels. It’ll be interesting to see if it provides longer life away from a charger, or whether the bigger display simply acts as a counterweight.

Aside from the physical changes, there’s been precious little to improve upon the iPhone 5 and 5S and make it a compelling upgrade for users of those devices. The rear facing camera is still 8MP, still records videos in 1080p, and it sticks out like a wart on the back. In the same vein, the plastic antenna at the back simply looks nasty.

Normally the latest iPhone generation can be proclaimed as the best iPhones ever made – even when they’re a little boring – but this time I’m not so sure. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are indeed good iPhones, but the design of the rear just doesn’t match up to the standard of the beautiful black iPhone 5. No doubt it’ll be a commercial success, but it marks a departure from the attention to detail that Apple has stuck to rigidly in the past.

iPhone 5 sleep/wake button repair

Many users have reported the intermittent and eventual total failure of the sleep/wake button on the iPhone 5. For the past few months I’ve been forced to use the accessibility settings to lock my phone.

Always keen to maintain its excellent reputation for customer services, and frightened that customers might make the leap over to a Samsung Galaxy S5 rather than endure a long summer with a broken phone, Apple have announced they will be repairing the sleep/wake button for eligible devices from the 2nd May.

iPhone 5s and 5c announced

An update to the iPhone 5 was announced today, and as expected it has been named the iPhone 5S. Similar to the iPhone 3GS and 4S, the new phone has a near identical chassis to its predecessor, with a few minor changes.

iPhone 5s

The biggest change is on the front – there is a new ‘Touch ID’ sensor which supersedes the old home button on the iPhone 5. This has a fingerprint sensor which can be used in place of a passcode to unlock the phone, and also to authenticate App Store and iTunes Store purchases. On the back there is a new dual-LED flash which can compensate for different white balances.

The new phone comes in three colours: ‘Space Grey’ (which replaces the smart black option), white and silver, and a brand new white and champagne gold.

Inside there’s a new A7 64-bit processor, and a new motion co-processor. The camera aperture has been increased, and a new slo-mo 120fps capability has been added.

The biggest surprise of the day is that the iPhone 5 is being discontinued after just one year. Previously, the last generation phone becomes the budget option as stocks are gently run down. This year, the iPhone 5 has been given a funky or cheap (depending on one’s opinion) plastic case and is being marketed as the iPhone 5C. The hardware is almost identical to the iPhone 5.

iPhone 5C

There’s no doubt the iPhone 5S will be a commercial success. It’s a significant upgrade from the iPhone 4 and 4s. iPhone 5 users, however, will be disappointed but then in turn relieved their phone is not obsolete. There’s not really a ‘killer feature’ on the iPhone 5S. The camera’s been improved, but it’s hard to tell the difference in practice. The processor’s been improved, but there’s no increase from the 1GB RAM found in the iPhone 5. Touch ID is an interesting feature, but it doesn’t (yet) add anything which can’t be replicated by entering a password.

Now the wait for the iPhone 6 begins…

iOS 6.1 released

Another update to iOS has been released, bringing the latest version to 6.1. In stark contrast to the previous 6.0.2 release, users are claiming that 6.1 offers ‘insane battery life’ although you’d be hard pressed to notice any other differences. In fact the biggest cosmetic change is perhaps that the music controls on the lock screen are now more consistent with the Music app.

61 lock controlsAside from that, there’s very few changes. However, as the release has already received glowing praise, it’s worth updating as soon as possible. The release is available for all devices which can run iOS 6, including the veteran iPhone 3GS.

iOS 6.0.2 released

Apple have released a small update to iOS targeting the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, which aims to fix wifi issues experienced on those new devices. I’ve found that very often, the iPhone will display the wireless icon yet when attempting to access any data nothing is received.  This problem is sporadic and completely random, but it is noticeable. However, many users have reported excessive battery drain, so I think I’ll wait for the next release for the time being.

Scott Forstall leaves Apple

One of Apple’s most high profile employees, Scott Forstall, is to leave the company. Forstall is Senior Vice President of iOS Software, and is well known for his keynote and product video appearances.

The biggest question of course, is why is he leaving now, just as Apple is enjoying massive revenues from the iPhones and iPads powered by iOS?

The rumours appear to point to iOS 6, and more specifically Apple Maps. Although beta testers told the company that Maps wasn’t ready for release, Forstall decided to press ahead anyway. It’s hard to imagine Steve Jobs ever allowing it out of the door.

Although a revolutionary operating system back in 2007, iOS is starting to look a little stale when compared with the rich interface offered by Android 4.1, ‘Jelly Bean’. Hopefully a change of personnel will bring some fresh ideas to the table.

Apple USB hubs

Ever since the launch of the original iMac back in 1998, Apple fans have liked to ensure their peripherals match the casing of the device they’re using. The ‘hockey puck’ style USB mouse is a prime example:

Surprisingly, however, Apple doesn’t produce an ‘official’ USB hub, despite the increasing number of gadgets we’re connecting up to daily. If you happen to own a non-Lightning and a Lightning device, such as an iPhone 5 and third generation iPad, you’ll probably want to keep both cables plugged in at once to a desktop machine. If you own the recently announced iMac, you might wish to plug in a DVD or Blu ray drive too, as the inbuilt optical drive has now disappeared. Before long you’ll probably be looking for more ports.

For a short time, MIC Gadget offered a four port USB hub complete with a glowing Apple logo. However, this was soon discontinued.

Fortunately, Apple sells a range of approved USB hubs through the Apple Store, mostly from Belkin. For example, this four port powered hub fits nicely under the iMac. However, it doesn’t support iPad charging, which is rather a disappointment.

For users needing even more capacity, there’s also a seven port hub.

Of course, if you’re not too concerned about aesthetics, it’s also possible to plug in any USB hub, from any manufacturer.